A Week In Paris On $678 A Month

Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennial women how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar. (Thanks, New York mag, for the inspiration.)

Today, a graduate student in Paris watching a nightly movie and drinking all the wine.
Advertisement
Location: Paris, France
Industry: Graduate student (I study natural gas and oil finance) and part-time corporate-English teacher. I tend to work about 30 hours a month, since my student visa limits me to that. I make 20.83 euros per hour, before taxes.
Age: 24
Salary: About $8,140 a year.
Paycheck (1st of the month): $416.58 this month. My parents also send me about $200 a month to help out when things are a little tight.
Number of roommates: 1 (boyfriend)

Monthly Expenses
Rent:
About $508 a month, covered by my boyfriend, who makes way more than me. It's family-owned, so we pay less than half of what we probably should for a 140-square-foot place.
Utilities: Paid at the beginning of the year, around $226.13
Loan payment: $80 back to the States. We’ve prioritized paying it off, since we were able to pay for my grad school without loans. (Yay, European sliding scale!) Since my boyfriend and I have a French civil union, I’m counted as a European citizen and I only paid $2,265 for my grad school and extra health insurance this year.
Transportation: $64 Metro card, every 2 months
Phone bill: $22/month
Health insurance (and taxes): My company is required to pay this, so it doesn’t come out of my actual paycheck. It includes my health care, my taxes, and my retirement. It means I make less, but I get a ton of benefits.
Savings: 20% of my paycheck. 10% goes into our joint account, and the other 10% gets saved up to be transferred to the U.S. every few months for my student loan.

Day 1

9:30 a.m. — Wake up somewhat late since I don’t work today, check my email; still no response about internships. Apply for three more positions, then go to meet my boyfriend for lunch at his office.

12:05 p.m. — Back of cod with the ubiquitous French white sauce, rice, and green beans. $12

1 p.m. — Check my bank account; finally got paid. More than I thought, since I had taken a lot of last month off. Our apartment building has a weird smell in the summer, so I go look for some incense to burn; no luck since my go-to store is closed (like everything here) for August vacation.

2 p.m. — Have a deadline this evening for a major natural-gas conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, this coming fall. I head to Starbucks to focus on reading the case study/prompt. Spend an hour at the Starbucks, one of the few things that still reminds me of the U.S. Chai-tea latte with soy, no water. $6

3 p.m. — Head back to the house to work on the case study. The case study is a competitive application to attend a conference as a funded student participant. It's not required, but it looks excellent and should be a great opportunity. It is due at 11 p.m. (12 a.m. Moscow time), so I work away for the rest of the evening. Boyfriend is seeing an old friend whom he doesn’t see often enough, so I can work in peace. (We live in a tiny studio, so it is hard to get work done while he is here.)

10 p.m. — Boyfriend is back, slightly tipsy but very relaxed and happy. He arrives just as I’m putting the finishing touches on my case study. I send it off and we make dinner; lentils with salad and some ice cream.

Daily Total: $18

Day 2

9 a.m. — Working this morning. My clients don’t want to talk, and so I spend half of my session trying to persuade them to speak to me in English. I work with a lot of bankers and traders, so I spend a lot of my time talking about politics (depressing in France and the U.S.) and finance (sometimes interesting, most of the time not). Not a huge fan of my job itself, but I love my boss and my colleagues.

1 p.m. — Prime lunchtime for the French. I grab my usual avocado, salmon, and rice salad with a San Pellegrino (lemon) and eat in the office. $10

2 p.m. — My boss tells me about a store nearby that sells diffusers during lunch. I head there afterward, and while window-shopping at the big department stores, I get sidetracked by the Gap. I love their white T-shirts, and I recently ruined mine with bleach. I buy two, a black T-shirt in the same cut, and a blue one. I’m all about the basics and rarely vary my wardrobe, so I know I will get good use out of them. Plus, they were having a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale. $42

2:40 p.m. — Make it to the Nature et Discovery store, where they do in fact sell diffusers. Find one with a smell that isn't nauseating — harder than it seems. It costs 14.95 euros, but I round up and give the 5 cents to charity (it is a thing here in France; I usually do it). I also stop by H&M to see if I can replace my favorite pants, which are going to bite the dust soon. No luck. $17

3 p.m. — I head home, have a guy tell me I’m beautiful and then demand a date with me while leaving the Metro. He refuses to back off until I tell him I’m engaged. It's not technically true, but oh well. Ugh. I call my boyfriend, a little freaked out.

3:20 p.m. — I head to the pool to work out for an hour, and three guys follow me for about half a block, yelling at me to come talk to them. What the heck! Paris is usually pretty safe, and I’ve never had an issue where I live. I arrive at the pool, text boy, then head off to swim. I swim 600 meters. I’m new to swimming as an exercise, but I’m a little obsessed. I shower off, then head home.

4 p.m. — I start working on internship hunting. I apply to another two or three while trying not to obsessively check my email (it doesn’t work).

5:30 p.m. — Boyfriend arrives home early since there is no one at work, thanks to the never-ending August vacation.

6:30 p.m. — After a quick nap, I head to the Jardin du Luxembourg and then the bookstore to buy a Lucky Luke Comic Book (boyfriend pays) as a reward to myself for powering through a tough intensive Russian class last week that was way above my level (three hours in the evening for five nights). I study Caspian and Russian gas finance and politics (how to fund pipelines, for example), so I am highly encouraged to study Russian to be competitive in the job market.

9 p.m. — Dinner, pasta with sauce, salad, cheese. Movie and ice cream.

Daily Total: $69

Day 3

10 a.m. — Head to the pool. 800 meters. (The pass is 2.40 euros per session, but I bought a pack of 20, like, a month ago, so I’m still using them.) One guy keeps "accidentally" brushing my leg whenever he swims past. Ick. I shower off and head home to get ready for lunch. I’m running super late!

12 p.m. — Lunch with boyfriend again. This time it’s some other white fish. Still yummy. We walk a little before he goes back to work. $12

1 p.m. — I decide to do a little lingerie shopping to see if I can find another everyday bra. I end up wandering into an Italian lingerie shop when my usual go-to place doesn’t have a good style. Boy’s birthday is in a few weeks, so I buy him a treat. Okay, really me a treat. This new Italian place is seriously dangerous. Luckily, I get out with only a bra-and-panty set. $35

3 p.m. — Stop at the grocery store to lay in supplies to work on internships again. Candy, beer, apple juice, shaving gel (for boy), and Pringles. Meal of champions, folks. I hear back from a conference I applied to that they will announce their decision tomorrow (instead of today). $17

3:15 p.m. — Applying for internships again…

5:30 p.m. — Boy arrives; we nap, then go for a walk.

7 p.m. — Dinner, spaghetti! Yum! He buys a nice bottle of red for 3 euros (it is delicious).

9 p.m. — Movie, then bed.

Daily Total: $64
Advertisement

Day 4

9 a.m. — Teaching again. Oh, good, the same students. But they're more talkative this time, so that is good. In the middle of the lesson, I get an email saying that I got accepted to the conference. Fifteen acceptances out of 500 applications for an all-expenses-paid week in St. Petersburg. Woo-hoo! Everyone in the office parties a little.

1 p.m. — Lunchtime: my rice, salmon, avocado salad with a San Pellegrino. The boss makes fun of me for always eating the same thing, but it is delicious and, given the area we work in, is a steal for only $10.

2 p.m. — Boss and I talk about my schedule for the rest of the month and my internship prospects. I’m required by my school to do a three-month internship, but the oil price has been really low, so no one wants to hire anyone right now, and since internships must be paid in France, it has been really tough. Hoping to get a few leads soon.

2:30 p.m. — I spend an hour in the Tuileries playing Pokémon Go. Don’t judge.

5:30 p.m. — Boy arrives, nap, and walk to the nearby park. We talk about this upcoming weekend with his parents.

7 p.m. — Dinner. Lentils with salad. Boy really loves lentils.

9 p.m. — Movie time, then bed.

Daily Total: $10

Day 5

10 a.m. — To the pool!!! Impolite people today, but since I’m going to my in-laws’ (they seriously, seriously stress me out), I spend lots of time and swim 1,000 meters, the most I’ve ever done. Hopefully, that will take the edge off my stress.

12 p.m. — Lunch at home by myself. I turn on some TV (Bob’s Burgers all the way) and eat some leftover spaghetti.

1 p.m. — I pack the suitcase for this weekend and have a rough time deciding what to bring. My boyfriend’s family is Catholic, and this weekend is a big holiday. That translates into lots of mass and a big family reunion with a side of the family I’ve never met. I pack way too much but feel prepared. I also bring some books and my Russian notes that I’ve been recopying.

4 p.m. — Head to the train station, where boy is waiting. Our train is at 5:30, but with all the security, it's better to be early than on time.

7 p.m. — Boy’s dad picks us up, and we eat with them. The mom makes a delicious roast with some mixed veggies.

9 p.m. — We watch the Olympics, then head to bed.

Daily Total: 0

Day 6

10:30 a.m. — We have a late breakfast and spend the rest of the day in the yard reading.

4 p.m. — Boy’s sister arrives with her new husband. They are genuinely nice and take some of the pressure off of me.

7 p.m. — We all take a long bike ride next to the Loire river. It is gorgeous, and I don’t get bitten by mosquitos (thanks to my little bracelet with citronella). I want to ride with boy, but father-in-law and mother-in-law have been fighting (again), so his dad spends the entire trip biking with him and talking to him about it.

9 p.m. — After showering, we eat a delicious dinner (tomatoes Farsi!!) with lots of wine. We end up talking with the sister and husband until around 11 p.m. We head to bed, since mass (one of two for the weekend) is at 9:30 the next day.

Daily Total: $0

Day 7

8:10 a.m. — It is way too early to be waking up like this on a weekend. I take my thyroid pill and start getting dressed. Nice dress with makeup and heels.

8:40 a.m. — I can finally eat breakfast (I have to wait half an hour after the pill for it to be properly absorbed). Unfortunately, we are running late, so I scarf down two pieces of toast with Nutella and some tea. My mother-in-law comes in at the last minute, saying I need different shoes and long pants for the party tonight. I rush to get ready and leave.

9:30 a.m. — There is no mass at this church…my sister-in-law is very unhappy and making sure everyone in the car knows it. We find another church and go inside. It is very modern and diverse, which I appreciate, but I’m not sure my in-laws do.

10:20 a.m. — Halfway through and I’m starting to feel a little ill. I tell my boyfriend and make a break for it during the communion (I’m not Catholic, so it’s not like I’m missing out). The minute I get outside, I feel better. Boy comes out to make sure I’m okay. I head to a boulangerie next door and buy a croissant and a Sprite. My blood sugar got too low. $3

11 a.m. — Mother-in-law comes out after mass and wants to make sure I’m okay. I tell her everything is fine, and we load up for the hourlong drive to the family home.

12 a.m. — There must be 30 people here! Half of them I know. The house isn’t that big, but there is so much land and there are so many mosquitos!

1 p.m. —I pour half a gallon of mosquito repellent all over myself and put my hair into a ponytail because it is so hot! We spend the rest of the day avoiding mosquitos and finding someplace cool. Lots of yummy snacks and fresh bread. Lots of wine, too.

7 p.m. — Dinnertime. Assorted meats, salad, some rice, and some cheese. Dessert is varied, either tarts or cake, but I’m so full I can’t eat anymore. We finish off the evening with some sparkling white wine. Very sweet but very good.

10 p.m. — We leave to go back to the house. Everyone is exhausted. I almost fall asleep in the car. I did manage to escape with only three mosquito bites, though.

11 p.m. — I shower off and collapse into bed.

Daily Total: $3
Editor's Note: All prices have been converted into USD and rounded to the nearest dollar.

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.


The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Have a money diary you'd like to share? Email moneydiary@refinery29.com.

Advertisement

More from Work & Money

Four years ago, my life was exactly where I wanted it: I was working as a senior editor at a major glossy magazine. My first young adult novel had just ...
After months of waiting and countless discussions about what the future holds for our favorite television characters, Shondaland shows are finally back. ...
Just after my son’s first birthday, I was on the phone with my mom, grappling over a gut-wrenching decision. I was scheduled to go on a business trip but...
Refinery29 joined the Clinton Foundation for a tour of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to get a firsthand look at the experiences of the women and girls who live ...
I get so nervous before job interviews — sweaty palms, dry mouth, butterflies in my stomach. It’s really not fun. But once I’m sitting down with the ...
Fifty percent off your purchase here. 1,000 free miles there. When it comes to credit cards, the benefits are easy to see — while the downsides are often ...
As the host of RIOT's Woke Bae, we already know comedian Phoebe Robinson is funny AF while getting serious about major issues like feminism and ...
You know what's easy? Spending money. It's the best way to get what you want right now. Except...this is not sustainable. Those little luxuries add up ...
If the new phrase for the office BFF is the "work wife," then is a good boss or mentor your "work mom" or "work dad"? Part authority figure, part dispenser...
12:45 p.m. — I have a dryer, rare in Shanghai, so my friend runs home to get his laundry and then does a load at my place
Ah, the job interview. Getting one always feels like a win — your résumé passed the test, and you've moved on to the next round. Writing the cover letter...
Working in the service industry is an easy way to get an (often unwanted!) glimpse into other people's personal lives. Whether you waited tables at a ...
Recently, I was reminiscing about my financial education. Or maybe I should put that in quotes: “financial education.” In 10th grade, we created a budget ...
11 p.m. — Make some more bad decisions and send a text for delivery of some illicit substances but he misses my text, which is probably a good thing ...